Lets just start with the benefits of using drone comb within your honey supers:
- Drone comb stores more honey per frame!
- No storage requirements, avoid bees getting to them, that's all there is to it really.
- Frames can be extracted at higher speeds and empty way faster!
- Less honey stuck in frames after extracting!
- No pollen is being stored in drone comb frames!
- No pollen stored in drone comb = no wax moth damage of those super frames!
- Bees seem to be very happy to draw out drone comb.
(The assumption is that you use a queen excluder to avoid any drones / pupa off being raised within the comb, hence with absence of pollen being stored in drone comb and no brood being raised giving the wax moth literally close to no food at all to thrive on. You will still notice minimal wax moth damage, however wax moth starve to death prior causing significant damage. The hole idea of using this simple technique came to us once we initially observed over the years, that bees had never stored pollen in drone comb regardless of how heavy the pollen flow was)
I've never seen a beekeeper appreciate the wax moth's work:
Most beekeepers really seem to have a dislike for wax moth, that is probably a fair statement in "general".
Below you can see wax moth damage on a brood frame on a died out colony.
Most beekeepers have issues storing their honey supers over the winter period, just to find them destroyed by wax moth, if no special treatment had been done to them. And by treatment I mean either having frozen the comb for 24h and then sealed up so wax moth can't enter the comb anymore. Alternatively one can cover them in wood ash and or spray them with BT, which I would not recommend, however I have seen applications of this in the past.
The easiest way to store a few frames is to build a bee tight space out in the open with a roof, and hang up your frames out in the draft nicely spaced, which will probably do for most amateur beekeepers, as you most likely only hold a few boxes worth of frames over winter.
However when you are semi-commercial or running as large scale commercial beekeeper, storing a few 1000+ frames in a special setup is probably not a viable option due to all the labor involved.
Hence a lot of commercial beekeepers lock up their honey supers in either sea containers or other air tight structures and gas them, essentially killing all wax moth and developing larva, while keeping the frames in the air tight space for a few days, then maintain keeping them locked up, until being re-used again. However, please note that prior entering the air-tight container to air out the enclosed space for at least a few days to ensure it is safe to enter and all gases have cleared out of the space.
Easy potential solution:
We are using drone comb with a cell diameter of 7.2mm. We had to adopt a color code in order to better operationally differentiate between regular 4.9mm worker bee comb (white top bars) and the larger 7.2mm drone comb size (red top bars) in the field.
However if you either don't want to gas all your frames, and or don't want to do all this effort, then I would recommend using drone comb in your honey supers and using queen bee excluders!
Basically you just have to ensure the queen never lays an egg into those drone comb frames and they will never be destroyed by wax moth. Its fairly simple to say, if no bee ever developed in a comb, then the wax moth will rather have a hard time trying to develop. We noticed during Redgum flows, which yield very massive pollen flows, that we never seen a single drone comb cell filled with pollen, not a single time!
Hence the absence of pollen and layers of previous developing bees cause the wax moth larva to starve to death, prior causing any real damage to the drawn drone comb frames.
We now simply just store the boxes in our shed, with no additional effort required once the bees previously cleaned out the supers. And in spring we take them out just as new!
This is how we store our drone comb supers. Absolutely no super storage requirements what so ever. Just pop them in the shed, forget about them for a few month, and take them back out. That's it!
Zero wax moth treatment required!!
I have not read that too often before, someone claiming to have practically no wax moth damage! Below you can see how the frames look like after 2-3 month of being in the shed as stored above. On the left you can see the single frame which had suffered a tiny fraction of wax moth damage, and this frame has been by far the worst of all of them!
Mice however like to find a nice warm and dry spot to set up their camp, so you will have to put up some mouse bait to avoid having rather mouse damage than wax moth damage!
The operational catch to the solution:
There is a catch however, for starters, many beekeepers probably have not adopted this style of management yet. And second, in high numbers of boxes and frames, there is the issue of pulling either capped brood or capped honey frames over the excluders too. As the commercial beekeeper you will always have to bring additional foundations or sticky frames for standard brood size with you to fill up, what ever frame you had to move over the excluder, as you should not place some of the drone combs under your excluder to avoid having millions of drones chomping through your honey, and having your previously clean drone comb "contaminated" by a larva, and therefore now being susceptible to wax moth damage.
So as you can see, when you grow in size, this is not perfect, but the benefits can't be ignored too!